The edited Princess Kate photo was probably not created with AI.

Despite speculation that it was created by artificial intelligence, an official photo released Sunday of the Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton, and her three children may have been Photoshopped, experts told NBC News. The program was manipulated.

Although there was no hint of creative AI in the image, the speculation shows how quickly AI has captured the public imagination and become integrated with online conspiracy theories.

In tabloid headlines, viral tweets and Reddit posts widely read, online viewers of the uproar over Middleton’s public appearance quipped that the photo “looked like AI.” A post on X that has been viewed more than 4 million times called the image an “AI doctored image.”

But this is most likely not true.

“I think it’s unlikely that this is anything more than a relatively minor image manipulation,” Hani Farid, of the University of California, Berkeley, who researches digital manipulation and disinformation, told NBC News. . “There is no evidence that this image is entirely AI-generated,” he said.

The circumstances surrounding the picture’s release were ripe for conspiratorial thinking.

The photo was the first photo of Middleton released to the public since January, when she underwent stomach surgery. Middleton’s absence from the public eye during her recovery has been the subject of constant conspiracy theories and speculation.

It is common for professionally staged images to undergo light editing, such as changing color or contrast. But the royal image was clearly manipulated in several places, in violation of the policies of most newswire services. The Associated Press, Getty Images and Reuters all issued “kill notices” for the photo, advising news agencies to remove it from their archives or not use it.

In a public explanation of the assassination notice, the AP noted that “closer study of the photograph revealed inconsistencies that suggested it had been altered, for example Princess Charlotte’s left hand was align with sweater sleeves.”

Zooming in on the manipulated image shows that the sweater is not aligned by hand.Prince of Wales / Kensington Palace / PA Wire

There is no indication that the photo was a deepfake, meaning that a computer program was created from scratch to make a person look realistic. Audio, video and still image deepfakes have become increasingly persuasive and commonplace in social media, and political activists have used them to try to mislead and influence voters in 2024.

But Middleton’s photo manipulation appears to be the work of someone obsessed with Photoshop or other basic image manipulation software, Fareed said.

“I think it’s probably either bad photoshop, for example, removing a stain on a sweater, or the result of on-camera photo compositing that blends multiple images together to get an image where Everyone’s smiling,” he said. .

Middletown apologized Monday, saying, “Like many amateur photographers, I occasionally experiment with editing,” but did not release an unedited version of the photo or further details.

Maura Grossman, a research professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Computer Science and an expert in image manipulation, agreed that the image was not the result of creative AI, but cautioned that the wide range of tools to manipulate media Range leads to a more complex scenario. counted as real.

“It’s not black and white. People want to look at it like, ‘This is a fake picture, it’s not.’ Grossman said.

“The line is going to get blurrier and blurrier,” he said.

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